Third Sunday of Advent – A
There was a very unusual auction that was held in Washington, D.C. in 1926. The items were inventions that had been patented and had become obsolete.
Even though some of them were rather comical, the 150,000 obsolete patented inventions really represented dashed dreams and disappointed people.
Perhaps disappointment is an odd thing to talk about on this Third Sunday of Advent, where we are singing about rejoicing, wearing rose-colored vestments on one of only two weekends a year that we wear them – the Third Sunday of Advent and the Fourth Sunday of Lent. And this is the season to be jolly, now, isn’t it?
But to tell the truth, there are people who find this season disappointing because Christmas this year may look a little different from the Christmas they have in mind.
We see John the Baptist in today’s Gospel maybe being a bit disappointed too. He had been preaching repentance at the Jordan River and baptizing lots of people. But in today’s Gospel he is in prison.
John the Baptist was wondering: “This Jesus that I preached about – is He really the Messiah? I’d like to know for sure before I die.” Maybe his expectations of what the Messiah should be were a bit unreasonable. And so he sends some of his own followers to ask Jesus that question.
What are we expecting Christmas to be like this year? If our expectations are unreasonable they can bring us disappointment.
Leo Buscaglia tells a story about when he was a boy. A present was dropped off at their home two weeks before Christmas, and it was huge. And it had his name on it. It was placed in their living room near the Christmas tree. He wondered every day what was inside.
He describes coming to Christmas morning and, as he started to unwrap it, he was already becoming disappointed. He was quite convinced that whatever was in there was not going to meet up to with anything he had been imagining.
What was inside was a desk, hand-made for him by his uncle. It was a wonderful gift. But Leo says it taught him a lesson for life: that when our expectations become unreasonable we are in for disappointment.
John the Baptist might have been disappointed because he wasn’t seeing the right signs that gave the right message about what the Messiah was to be like. John sends his followers to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
And Jesus responds, “Well, the blind now see. The lame now walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised, and the poor have the Good News preached to them. Go and tell John what you have seen and heard!”
What was Jesus quoting from? From the Prophet Isaiah. That is what Isaiah said the Messiah was going to be like. Perhaps John wasn’t looking at the right signs. And so he didn’t get the right message.
There was a group of kindergartners putting on a Christmas play. Four of them were dressed as angels, and each one of them had a sign upon which was one big letter. When they stood together the audience would read S-T-A-R.
So it came to the point in the play when the star was to appear over the Christ Child, and those four cherubs stood up and walked to the center. But somehow they ended up in reverse order, and when they held up their signs what the audience read was R-A-T-S!
What is the lesson? If we don’t look at the right signs, we won’t get the right message. We need to look at the signs that the Lord has placed for us, and read what He has in mind for us.
John might have been disappointed because he had unreasonable expectations, because he was looking at the wrong signs, and maybe because he wasn’t real patient with God.
Ever feel that way: impatient with God?
Lenny Stevens writes that when he was a little boy he remembers a Christmas where all he wanted was a pony. He said to his mom and dad, “And if I don’t get a pony, then I don’t want anything for Christmas!”
Christmas morning came and they were all at the tree. His sisters were opening their gifts with glee, but Lenny didn’t see any indication of a pony. In fact, there was nothing there for Lenny.
Lenny felt horrible! So he went out to the barn by himself. His mom came out and tried to comfort him, and it didn’t do any good. He looked outside and saw his dad watching him through the upstairs window, and that didn’t do any good either.
So Lenny decided to go for a walk. Lo and behold, he saw a man leading a pony down the street, and his hopes got high. But the man walked right by Lenny’s house.
Lenny had had it and began to cry. Then the man with the pony turned around and said, “I’m looking for Lenny Stevens’ house. Do you know where he lives?” “I’m Lenny Stevens,” he cried. “Well,” the man replied, “here’s your pony, son. Merry Christmas!”
Lenny doesn’t even remember why the man said he was late. He got on that pony and went riding. But Lenny said that later in life he wasn’t sure whether that was his best Christmas or his worst Christmas.
What went wrong? Lenny was impatient. The gift of the pony was on its way, but Lenny was disappointed when it didn’t arrive when he thought it should.
We do that with God too, don’t we? For centuries people awaited the coming of the Messiah, and yet look how the Messiah finally came – in out-of-the-way Bethlehem, of all places.
What are your expectations for Christmas this year? Are they reasonable, or not?
Are we looking at God’s signs for the way to be happy as Christian people? Or are we looking at the signs of materialism and personal discontent?
Are we patient with God, allowing God to be God in our lives?
This is Gaudete Sunday. So let us rejoice!
Although this may not be the kind of Christmas that you have in mind, in God’s own love for you, it could well be the one that you really need this year.
“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.”